Phil Lempert, a Santa Monica-based analyst of consumer behavior and marketing trends, figures consumers haven’t seen the last of major retailers shuttering. Just last week, Sport Chalet announced the closure of all 47 of its stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. That chain is based in La Cañada Flintridge.
“With the minimum wage going up to $15 an hour and more people turning to online shopping, more stores are going to close,” Lempert said. “It’s fine to say that everyone should have a living wage. But the money has to come from somewhere.”
Lempert said a growing number of retail outlets have fallen victim to “showrooming,” where customers will walk into a store, try on the shirt or jacket they like and then order it online at a significant discount.
“These stores have to look at not at how they will compete with other brick-and-mortar stores, but how they will compete with Amazon,” he said. “It’s become a holistic environment where people can buy things on their mobile phones and then have the products delivered by the time they get home.”
Joel D. Hirst on The Suicide of Venezuela:
I have watched the suicide of a nation; and I know now how it happens. Venezuela is slowly, and very publically, dying; an act that has spanned more than fifteen years. To watch a country kill itself is not something that happens often. In ignorance, one presumes it would be fast and brutal and striking – like the Rwandan genocide or Vesuvius covering Pompeii. You expect to see bodies of mothers clutching protectively their young; carbonized by the force or preserved on the glossy side of pictures. But those aren’t the occasions that promote national suicide. After those events countries recover – people recover. They rebuild, they reconcile. They forgive.
No, national suicide is a much longer process – not product of any one moment. But instead one bad idea, upon another, upon another and another and another and another and the wheels that move the country began to grind slower and slower; rust covering their once shiny facades. Revolution – cold and angry. Hate, as a political strategy. Law, used to divide and conquer. Regulation used to punish. Elections used to cement dictatorship. Corruption bleeding out the lifeblood in drips, filling the buckets of a successive line of bureaucrats before they are destroyed, only to be replaced time and again. This is what is remarkable for me about Venezuela.
Tonight there are no lights. Like the New York City of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, the eyes of the country were plucked out to feed the starving beggars in abandoned occupied buildings which were once luxury apartments. They blame the weather – the government does – like the tribal shamans of old who made sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of an intervention. There is no food either; they tell the people to hold on, to raise chickens on the terraces of their once-glamorous apartments. There is no water – and they give lessons on state TV of how to wash with a cup of water. The money is worthless; people now pay with potatoes, if they can find them. Doctors operate using the light of their smart phones; when there is power enough to charge them. Without anesthesia, of course – or antibiotics, like the days before the advent of modern medicine. The phone service has been cut – soon the internet will go and an all-pervading darkness will fall over a feral land.
A friend wrote us:
I have heard many young people describe why they support Bernie Sanders, and I empathize.
They believe they are being screwed by our government, and their futures are being robbed, and that is true.
They believe that cronyism and Washington picking winners and losers, is unjust, and that is true.
They believe that an outsider, an anti-establishment candidate, someone not beholden to special interests or to corrupt political parties, is our only hope, and that is true.
They believe what’s fundamentally missing is values and integrity, that politicians are immoral thieves and power-lusters, and that is true.
Regrettably, these youth are so uneducated and ignorant that they believe a socialist—the very essence of future-robbing, cronyism, corruption, immorality and power-lusting—is their salvation. It’s really the perfection of Progressive education we are witnessing: for 50 years our children have been indoctrinated instead of educated.
This slow journey by the Left is how all “cultural revolutions”—and destruction and war, and death camps, arise from formerly civilized societies. But that’s superficial. Leftist propaganda is ineffective, so blatantly vacuous and stupid, that the only way it works is that our culture has already instilled the moral code of altruism into our youth. Conservatives and their religious values, included.
Everyone (almost) is pro-altruism and no one (almost) dares to question it. Declare you are against selfishness and for the needy, and you get a blank check to rewrite history and facts, defy logic, blame scapegoats, and commit the worst atrocities in the name of “the oppressed.”
Writes Garry Kasparov on New threats rose as U.S. apathy became policy:
Inaction can fracture alliances. Inaction can empower dictators and provoke terrorists and enflame regional conflicts. Inaction can slaughter innocent people and create millions of refugees. We have the horrific proof in Syria, where Barack Obama’s infamous “red line” has been painted over in blood.
….Social psychology documented the “bystander apathy effect” in the 1960s, a phenomenon in which the more people who witness a crisis together, the less likely any one of them is to help. Studies showed that while 70 percent of people alone will help a stranger in distress, the number drops to 40 percent when other people are in the room. Inaction is not only deadly, it’s contagious, and it applies to nations as well as to individuals.
The solution to this sort of paralysis on a nation-state level is to have strong global institutions and treaties that are binding and clear. For example, an agreement between countries to guarantee mutual defense or an organization that is bound to intervene to stop a genocide. In theory, contractual commitments and shared moral obligations will override the bystander effect. In practice, the fear of taking action is so strong that the leaders of the free world find excuse after excuse to ignore their commitments and their values.
These excuses range from feigned ignorance to legalistic pedantry to rhetorically reducing the national and international interests that must be protected. Hundreds of thousands slaughtered in Rwanda? We didn’t know. The Budapest Memorandum guarantees Ukrainian territorial integrity? Check the fine print, we’re technically not bound to defend them. Russian jets are crossing into Turkish territory? The North Atlantic Treaty Organization begs member nation Turkey not to invoke the mutual defense clause. Iraq and Syria are exploding into civil war? It’s a Middle Eastern problem. The civil wars are churning out terrorist groups and refugees reaching the West? It’s a European problem. Islamic State sympathizers killed 14 people in San Bernardino, the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11? Our anti-IS strategy is the right one.
Obama and his fellow neo-isolationists are well aware that few are condemned and fewer are convicted of having the power to prevent a tragedy but refusing to do so, while a single death resulting from intervention will be denounced. A quarter-million deaths, a dozen terror attacks, a million refugees, these are politically acceptable consequences of inaction, but a single casualty from action, even attempting to prevent those horrors, is considered politically unacceptable.
Cruz is a Christian who takes his religion (semi) seriously. And I certainly understand why people of reason distrust a politician who believes there is “a guy in the sky” to whom we owe faith and obedience. All manner of irrational and life-throttling ideas can follow (and have followed) from that fantasy.
But Ted Cruz is not a theocrat. In the realm of politics, he recognizes that the U.S. Constitution takes precedence over his religion. As he puts it:
My faith is an integral part of who I am. I’m a Christian, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. I’m not going to hide that and treat it like something you can’t admit publicly. . . .
But I also think that those in politics have an obligation not to wear their faith on their sleeve. There have been far too many politicians who run around behaving like they’re holier than thou. My attitude as a voter, when some politician stands up and says “I’m running because God told me to run” [a veiled reference to Marco Rubio], my reaction is “Great, when God tells me to vote for you we’ll be on the same page.”
I’m not asking for your vote because of my personal faith. . . . I’m asking you to vote for me because I’ve spent a lifetime fighting to defend the Constitution and Bill of Rights, fighting to defend the American free enterprise system. And we need a leader who will stand up every day and protect the rights of everyone, whether they’re Christians or Jews or Muslims or anyone else. The Bill of Rights protects all Americans. It protects atheists. That’s the beauty of the Bill of Rights. . . . The Constitution and the Bill of Rights [embody] a unifying principle that can bring us together across faiths, across races, across ethnicities—and we need to come together behind the unifying principles that built America.
Cruz is far from flawless. But he is by far the best viable candidate running for president today.
We don’t get to dream up a flawless candidate and make him real. We have to choose among the actual alternatives, or enter a protest vote, or choose not to vote. Those are our only alternatives.
Given the foregoing facts, Cruz is the clear-cut best choice for America.
Greg Salmieri makes some fine points in his post Another Critic Who Doesn’t Care What Rand Thought or Why She Thought It, Only That She’s Wrong:
Cummins still gets Rand wrong on a number of points, and I think she does so because she isn’t really interested in getting her right. This is a common problem when people write about those whom they regard as ideological enemies. They come at the enemy’s texts with a preconceived idea of what she thinks, why she thinks it, and how her view can be refuted; and then they look for passages that cohere with this, rather than approaching the texts with the question “What does this person think and why?” Cummins has Rand pigeon-holed as a thinker of a certain sort, who occupies a certain foolish position in a familiar debate about egoism and altruism, and she shows no interest in testing that hypothesis, or (better) in putting the hypothesis aside temporarily to see what emerges from a straightforward reading of the texts. This is a mistake we all have to work hard not to fall into when addressing authors whose views we regard as opposite to our own.
Such pieces are vehicles through which those who find Rand distasteful can commiserate with one another and preen over their own erudition, without engaging people who think differently or contributing to any productive inquiry. Sure, there’s some combing through a few of Rand’s articles to find passages to gripe about, and there may even occasionally be decent arguments about stray points, but there isn’t any real intellectual engagement—no attempt to identify and evaluate the theses, arguments, and themes that so many readers find enlightening and inspiring in Rand’s works. The frequency of such gripes, especially in the last several years, attests to the enduring place Rand has earned in American thought. It is high time that those who find her ideas uncongenial accept this fact and begin treating her accordingly.
As President Barack Obama currently visits Cuba, it merits noting that the Communist regime south of Florida has killed an estimated 73,000 people since the dictator Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which was established by an act of Congress in 1993.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which runs the Museum of Communism, is a non-profit group created “to educate this generation and future generations about the ideology, history, and legacy of communism,” reads its website. It also is building a memorial “to commemorate the more than 100 million victims of communism” worldwide.
Writes Michael Hurd in April of 2011: Donald Trump: The Wish Fulfillment Candidate | Capitalism Magazine
If you’re looking for a label to describe Trump, the one I’d pick is fascist. A fascist is essentially a socialist who wants to keep up the appearance of private markets while in fact running the whole show himself. Socialism would do away with the private economy altogether — even one run behind the scenes by government managers — and replace it with out in the open government control. As a businessman, Donald Trump can probably be counted on not to embrace socialism. But I’d bet money he’d be a fascist. And fascism will drop the free market of capitalism, as well. Things will now be run by … Donald Trump.
As the American economy continues not to grow or get any better, the appeal of a fascist-lite dictator such as Donald Trump will grow. This isn’t because there are no rational alternatives to dictatorship. It’s just that none are being offered. The Tea Party talks cutting spending, but offers no strength because it offers no ideology of any kind. As a result, it’s hardly cutting a penny from the budget (and in today’s terms, a penny is a billion). Quite naturally people are going to listen to Donald Trump, because they think he’s something different from Barack Obama. But Donald Trump is not the voice of reason, nor the voice of the personal responsibility Americans must take if we are to remain a free country (politically) and become a free country again (economically).
Trump is the voice of wishful thinking — disguised by toughness.
Sometimes we dislike it when we are right.
Writes Glenn Woiceshyn in the National Post:
“Trumpism” is a major transition to fascism, which opposes individual rights, which is anti-American. Aside from the Second Amendment (on guns), Trump is virtually silent on defending the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Instead, he wants total executive power to restrict immigration and free trade, seize private property, punish corporations that bother him, and so on. His campaign tactics are fascistic: appeal to emotion and for blind trust, demonize critics, foreigners and religious/ethnic groups, and speak in vague generalities about positive effects — “I will make America great again!” — without naming or explaining causes. Everything is about “making deals,” not protecting rights. It’s no accident that Trump likes Vladimir Putin, who also likes Trump.
In his 1982 book, Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America, philosopher Leonard Peikoff brilliantly demonstrated how intellectual and political trends in America were pointing toward fascsm. Trump is merely cashing in on the dumbing down of America that has been taking place for decades, where relatively few today understand what liberty means or how it caused America to be great.
“If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write. Maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance. Maybe it’s the ability for law enforcement to turn on the camera. I mean, I don’t know where this stops. But I do know this is not what should be happening in this country. This is not what should be happening in America. If there should be a law that compels us to do it, it should be passed out in the open, and the people of America should get a voice in that. The right place for that debate to occur is in Congress.” — Tim Cook
COOK ON A MASTER KEY:
No one would want a master key built that would turn hundreds of millions of locks. Even if that key were in the possession of the person that you trust the most, that key could be stolen. That is what this is about.
COOK ON THE SLIPPERY SLOPE:
It’s clear that it would be a precedent. New York law enforcement is already talking about having 175 phones there. Other counties across the United States are talking about phones they have. And so it is a slippery slope. I don’t fear it; it is one.
COOK ON NATIONAL SECURITY VS PRIVACY:
Cook: I know people like to frame this argument as privacy versus national security. That is overly simplistic and is not true. This is also about public safety. The smartphone that you carry has more information about you on it than probably any other singular device or any other singular place.
Muir: So this is about protecting the safety of the people who carry those iPhones?
Cook: That’s exactly right. And by the way, it’s probably just not iPhone. Because if the government could order Apple to create such a piece of software, it could be ordered for anyone else as well. It doesn’t stop here.
Think about this. It is, in our view, the software equivalent of cancer. Is this something that should be created? Technology can do so many things. But there are many things technology should never be allowed to do. And the way you not allow it, is to not create it.
COOK ON ENCRYPTION:
Cook: Hacking has become increasingly commonplace. It is very difficult to secure data, and the everyday person can’t do it. They look for Apple to help them do it. You need to look no further than the government, which has had some of the worst breaches of all in this case. And so yes, security gets better with every software release we have. Encryption gets more advanced. It has to to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.
Muir: So it’s not a mistake that we can’t get into Syed Farook’s iPhone?
Cook: We didn’t do it for that reason, David. We did it to protect our customers. But yes, a side effect means that Apple can’t get to it either. Think of it like this: if you put a door in a house, it’s a lot easier to get in that house. It doesn’t matter whether it’s locked or not. Somebody can get in that. And so our simple view is that you encrypt end to end, and you don’t keep a key. And so the people that can see communications are the people on either end of that communication.
COOK ON THE FBI DEMANDS:
Cook: What they want is, they want us to develop a new operating system that takes out the security precautions. Including the precaution that, after 10 tries, if somebody has set “erase all data after 10,” they want that to not be in there. And then they want an ability to go through a number of passwords at the speed of a modern computer.
Muir: A computer would do that to figure out the code.
Cook: A computer would do that. We believe that is a very dangerous operating system
Muir: Because once people know that exists, you say, the cat is out of the bag.
Cook: If one of the bad guys knew that that existed, think about the target that is. Everybody would want that system. Because you could get in… It has the potential to get into any iPhone. This is not something that should be created.
AT THE END OF THE DAY WHAT APPLE WILL DO
Cook: We would be prepared to take this issue all the way. Yes. Because I think it’s that important for America. This should not be decided court by court by court. If you decide that it’s okay to force a company to do something that they think is bad for hundreds of millions of people, then… Think about this for a minute. And this case is an awful case; there is no worse case than this case. But there may a judge in a different district that feels that this case should apply to a divorce case. There may be one in the next state over that thinks it should apply in a tax case. Another state over it might apply in a robbery. And so you begin to say, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t how this should happen.’ If there is going to be a law, then it should be done out in the open for people so their voices are heard through their representatives in Congress.
Muir: And if Congress decided that there’s this small category — this was a terrorist’s iPhone. If Congress decided that, if the American people signed off on that, you’d entertain it?
Cook: Let me be clear. At the end of the day, we have to follow the law. Just like everybody else, we have to follow the law. What is going on right now is we’re having our voices be heard. And I would encourage everyone who wants to have a voice and wants to have an opinion to make sure their voice is heard.